Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dragons!

In a recent post, we learned how the evolution of a wavy spiny body with a prehensile tail, a bent neck, and a long thin snout have combined to help make seahorses into bad-ass predators. More so if you are a small shrimp-like crustacean than, say, a scuba diver.

in their native habitat, seahorses are actually quite gentle
(though they are stealthy and successful hunters)
image: FreakingNews



And if seahorses' mating behavior (in which the males nurture the eggs until the baby seahorses hatch and head off on their own) and champion camouflage capacity weren't enough to wow you, I'll have to pull out the even bigger guns this time, with the dragons. Sea dragons.

no, not that one...the kinder, gentler version...
image: DarkGift

This is the one!  Introducing the (kind and gentle) leafy sea dragon:


Yes, that one!

For any who haven't seen sea dragons, they are gorgeous and ethereal kelp imitators. Like seahorses, sea dragons swim slowly and are somewhat Zen-like as they bob and drift with the waves and currents. Their phenomenal camouflage keeps them safe, despite their slow swimming.

Also like the seahorse, they suck up their food, using their long snout like a drinking straw, but they don't have teeth!

The beauty of sea dragons is really best seen on video (or live, even better), This one tells the tale of several leafy sea dragons (skip until around 20 seconds!):





Not to be outdone, the weedy sea dragon is equally bizarre and beautiful, as the two here dance together so peacefully in a video from BBC (David Attenborough narrating!).




As with seahorses, male sea dragons also do the heavy lifting of taking care of the eggs, but the adorable weird baby sea dragons are on their own, Yes, such creatures exist on this planet.  Stay tuned for more!

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